For illustration purposes – The exterior of Mulia Hotel located in Anggerek Desa. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

Brunei’s hotel industry is in a severe economic bind, reporting an 80 percent or $2.9 million drops in revenue last month compared to January of 2020, with a number of hotels under threat of permanent closure as the COVID-19 pandemic persists worldwide.

This was revealed by the President of the Brunei Association of Hotels (BAH), Mohd Iswandy Maaruf based on a survey of the financial impact of COVID-19 towards the sultanate’s hotel industry, which involved 24 out of the 42 registered tourism accommodation premises in Brunei.

According to the findings, the hotel industry only saw a room revenue of $817,044 in April, a significant plunge compared to the $3,713,371 in January.

“Currently, most hotels and apartments are concerned about the daily operation of their businesses and how to retain their employees amid this global disease,” he said in an interview with The Bruneian.

For illustration purposes – One of the rooms at Rimbun Suites and Residences. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

He noted that the ban on inbound travellers into Brunei played a major role in the industry’s financial loss, with most members of the hotel industry being heavily dependent on China and other Far East markets like South Korea and Japan. 

Between the period of December last year to March alone, the hotels already suffered a loss of $530,480 due to cancellations from 13 different countries. 

The countries include Australia, Belgium, China, Denmark, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

“Since March, some hotel members are already cutting their staff salary at 35 percent, equivalent to nine days of unpaid leave, and some cutting at 50 percent, equivalent to 15 days of work and 15 days off,” he explained.

“Some have even had to retrench a number of their staff, because at this point the industry is not earning enough, other than from individuals that had to undergo mandatory self-isolation at hotels, which so far has subsided, since the COVID-19 situation is currently under control.

For illustration purposes – One of the rooms at Rimbun Suites and Residences. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

“Some of us have run out of options but to let go their staff, it’s not the best move, but its the only one left,” he continued, adding that a number of hoteliers have expressed ideas of closing down permanently, should this economic situation be prolonged even further.

This notion, according to the BAH president would spell dire consequences for the unemployment trend in the country since 72 percent of staff from the hotels taking part in the survey are locals.

Based on the numbers provided, by March of this year, a total of 1,525 individuals were employed under the hotels, 1,175 of which were locals, while the remaining 350 were foreigners.

Despite the crippling financial struggle the local hotel industry is currently facing, Mohd Iswandy recognised the government’s support in mitigating the impact of the pandemic however he commented on the need for more expansive measures that can support the industry during these unprecedented times.

For illustration purposes – Rimbun Suites and Residences. Image: Ridhwan Kamarulzaman

“If what has been projected is true, that the COVID-19 situation may persist until next year or even the year after, then we need all the help that we can get, we don’t know what else we can do,” he said.

When asked whether the industry can find alternative ways to earn income, such as tapping into the domestic market, the BAH president, who is also the Director of Operations of Mulia Hotel said that relying on locals “will be difficult, considering the need to continue practicing social and physical distancing”.

“We ourselves have our own role to play in curbing the outbreak, such as closing the facilities that would encourage mass gatherings, like swimming pools and function halls, so honestly even we are at a loss,” he concluded.



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